Ferrari's Stepney faces criminal enquiry
|By Jonathan Noble and Biranit Goren
||Thursday, June 21st 2007, 17:17 GMT
The Modena district attorney in Italy has opened criminal investigation against Ferrari stalwart Nigel Stepney, after the Maranello outfit filed a formal complaint earlier this week.
The team would not divulge the nature of their complaint or what Stepney is accused of, but a team spokesman has confirmed to autosport.com that the Briton is at the centre of investigation.
"Ferrari have taken action against Nigel Stepney, and there is now an investigation," the spokesman said, adding that Stepney is still an employee of Ferrari.
Ferrari refused to offer any additional information, saying they will refrain from making any comment on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.
Stepney himself is currently on holiday, and all attempts to reach him for comment over the last few days have failed.
Autosport.com understands the Modena district attorney has launched a criminal investigation after receiving Ferrari's complaint with accompanying documents. A public defence lawyer has been appointed to represent Stepney in the investigation in his absence.
Just a few months ago, two former Ferrari employees were found guilty of taking team secrets to Toyota.
Stepney is responsible for team performance development at Ferrari, having been the Scuderia's race and test technical manager until earlier this year.
The Briton, who joined Ferrari a decade ago from Benetton, was moved to his new position after claiming he was unhappy at the technical department following Ross Brawn's departure.
Stepney had hoped to be able to take a sabbatical this year, but that request was declined by the team who instead gave him a new factory-based role.
Speaking to Autosport magazine earlier this year, he said: "I am looking at spending a year away from Ferrari.
"I'm not currently happy with the situation within the team - I really want to move forward with my career and that's something that's not happening right now.
"Ideally, I'd like to move into a new environment here at Ferrari - but if an opportunity arose with another team, I would definitely consider it."
Stepney has been widely linked with a possible move to Honda.